And Now: Small Talk About Reid Brignac | The Process Report

And Now: Small Talk About Reid Brignac

By R.J. Anderson //

A complete list of everyday players who swing at a higher percentage of pitches than Reid Brignac:

Jeff Francoeur .286
Vladimir Guerrero .352
Delmon Young .347
Brennan Boesch .336
Pablo Sandoval .319
A.J. Pierzynski .293
Kevin Kouzmanoff .302
Yuniesky Betancourt .304
Josh Hamilton .449

I count two brutally poor seasons, two very poor, one so-so, three good-to-very good, and one amazing season. That’s four good, four bad, and one in the middle.

153 players qualified for that list and Brignac swings more than all but eight. That is telling. Brignac likes to swing. He lives to swing, rather than swings to live. Such an approach differs from the players promoted from Durham throughout the season. Matt Joyce, John Jaso, and Dan Johnson are in the latter camp. They are best described as passive aggressive at the plate. They can make pitchers pay for mistakes, but they rarely make mistakes themselves.

Brignac is the rare bird in the Rays’ lineup and system. Young and Hamilton are formerly in the system, but the only player in the lineup now that swings more than 50% is Carl Crawford. I’ve compared Brignac’s approach to Crawford’s and I think Rocco Baldelli is another good example of a youngster who came up through the system as a hacker and later refined his approach – although who knows how much of that is tied to the physical restraints that define Baldelli’s career.

I don’t feel like Brignac’s tendency to swing a lot is going to restrict him from becoming a decent hitter. I do feel like Brignac spending time in Durham may have helped him and I do feel like that was the original plan before Joyce started the season on the disabled list. Whether sitting on the bench has hampered his development or not is beyond me. I’d be inclined to say no, perhaps merely from hope, but cannot offer anything in the form of a definitive answer.

He can learn and adjust. He has the natural skills that got him here – and I think that speaks well to the idea that his approach, or at least a version his approach, can work. Players who reach the majors with hacky tendencies are doing something right. Either they hit for power or slam the ball into the dirt and beat out a bunch of grounders.

That he’s essentially matched Jason Bartlett’s offensive production while playing sporadically and being in his first full major league season is enough for me to feel comfortable with Brignac entering 2011 as the starting shortstop. Heck, it would be enough for me to feel comfortable with him as the starting shortstop right now, but risk minimization outweighs upside maximization right now.



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